Monday, November 23, 2009

Week 11 column: Better get your backup, Jack

Who needs starting running backs, anyway?

A quick glance at lineups across your league would show that backup tailbacks were some of the top fantasy producers in Week 11.

Ricky Williams set the tone on Thursday night with a touchdown trifecta. Mike Bell and Jamaal Charles each piled up decent yardage and a pair of scores. Last week’s prized free agents – Jason Snelling, Justin Forsett and Bernard Scott – each filled in ably for their injured mates.

This wasn’t a one-week phenomenon, either. Williams had been a solid contributor even before Ronnie Brown went down, just as Ahmad Bradshaw and Jonathan Stewart have shined in their starters’ shadows.

Bell, Charles, LeSean McCoy, Ladell Betts, Fred Jackson, Darren Sproles, Glen Coffee, Tashard Choice and Ryan Moats have each excelled when called upon. Rookie rushers Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno have been coming into their own for weeks now. And let’s not forget, both Rashard Mendenhall and Laurence Maroney began the season as backups, if not afterthoughts.

You’d better believe there’s plenty more to come. Injuries come with the territory in the NFL, and nobody takes more punishment than workhorse running backs. Just ask Ladell Betts, who is probably gone for the season after just his second start.

And as the fantasy playoffs rapidly approach, it’s not too soon to prepare for the possibility that a handful of valuable starters may be resting during the all-important Week 16 matchups, if not earlier. After all, it happens every season. This year, some of the top performers in your league’s title games could be Chester Taylor, Donald Brown, Bell and Sproles, if their respective teams successfully lock down their postseason positions in time.

Stashing those players on your bench now could pay huge dividends later.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Rock Cartwright, RB, Redskins – Now that Ladell Betts has been lost with a serious knee injury, Cartwright is the last tailback standing in Washington. Since Clinton Portis has already been ruled out of Week 12 due to aftereffects from his concussion, the eighth-year back will be pressed into service against the Eagles. It’s not the best matchup, but after leading the Redskins in both rushing (67 yards) and receiving (7 catches, 73 yards) against the Cowboys, he seems up to the task.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills – He has offered scant fantasy value since Week 4, when Marshawn Lynch returned from his three-game suspension. For that matter, neither has Lynch. Buffalo’s running game has too little firepower to split between two backs. But if Lynch’s shoulder injury keeps him sidelined, Jackson could once again have the backfield all to himself.

Kahlil Bell, RB, Bears – There’s a new handcuff for Matt Forte, and after the dramatic 72-yard run on his first professional carry more than doubled the starter’s entire production against Philly, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the undrafted rookie steal more carries going forward. He won’t be worth starting unless Forte is injured, but as we’ve seen lately, that could happen on any given play.

Don’t be fooled

Brady Quinn, QB, Browns – You can look at Sunday’s performance as Quinn’s long-awaited breakout game. Or you can write it off as a consequence of playing against the toothless Lions. Since the four touchdowns he threw yesterday exceeded his previous career total, I’m comfortable in siding with the latter.

Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals – First off, the head blow that knocked Kurt Warner out of Sunday’s game is unlikely to keep him out next week. More important, did you notice that Leinart failed to put up a single point in two quarters of work against the sad-sack Rams? If Warner goes down, you’ll need to turn elsewhere for help.

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